Home Affairs charged over Sydney detention centre death

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday March 10, 2021

Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney.
Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The Department of Home Affairs and its healthcare provider International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) have been charged with breaching federal work health and safety laws over the 2019 death of a man in immigration detention.

Federal work safety regulator Comcare on Wednesday revealed the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has filed two charges each against Home Affairs and IHMS following an investigation.

The charges relate to an incident in March 2019, where a 26-year-old Iraqi national took his own life at Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.

Home Affairs and IHMS allegedly failed in their duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, according to Comcare.

“It is alleged that Home Affairs and IHMS failed to provide and maintain a safe system of work at the facility as part of their health and safety duties that extend to detainees,” it said.

“It is also alleged that Home Affairs and IHMS failed to provide necessary training, information and supervision to mental health staff in relation to their care for the detainee.”

READ MORE: Home Affairs rejects call for ‘basic support’ to protect asylum seekers and refugees

Another detainee had died at that same centre just two months earlier. More recently, in December last year, another man died at the centre after five months in immigration detention. He had been detained after he was caught smoking marijuana, and authorities discovered his visa had expired.

Home Affairs has indicated that it “intends to vigorously defend the charges”, which it was first notified of on March 3.

“The department is yet to be provided with the material considered by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions in making the decision to bring the charges,” it said in a statement.

The charges the department and its healthcare provider face carry a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.

The matter is listed for mention in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on April 27.

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